Wuhan's Pool Party Draws Outrage, Despite Zero Cases In Months

The former epicenter hasn't had a viral case since May.

It pays off to take a pandemic seriously.

That’s a lesson many online, especially North Americans, are coming to terms with, as footage from a recent pool party in Wuhan, China shows thousands of revellers enjoying themselves without social distancing or wearing face masks.

Outlets reported large numbers congregated at the HOHA Water Electrical Musical Festival to enjoy live performances at Wuhan Maya Beach Water Park last Saturday. According to a local outlet, CNN states that the park welcomes up to 15,000 visitors on weekends; around 3,000 people are estimated to have attended the festival.

Online outrage over the crowds was swift, with many passing judgement on the festival attendees. The city’s reputation as the pandemic’s first epicentre fuelled the incredulity takes.

It’s a rational gut reaction, as it mirrors the tone taken by media coverage and online responses to people breaking social distancing in parks or face mask rules in other parts of the world. Much of this pushback comes from a concern for societal safety, as viral case numbers won’t go down without adherence to safety rules.

However, these reactions were called out by others on Twitter, who pointed out that not all large social gatherings are created equal: Wuhan, unlike other areas of the world like the U.S. or Canada, has been outbreak-free for months and as such, doesn’t outlaw social gatherings.

Thanks to intensive virus prevention policies — which include “unprecedented” COVID-19 testing of 10 million residents and months of strict lockdown — the city saved itself from the spread of coronavirus and hasn’t had a local infection since May. Wuhan’s ongoing commitment to stopping transmission in its tracks can be seen at the water park itself, as the Associated Press reports that attendees must reserve tickets ahead of time and submit identification for contact-tracing. NBC reports that the festival will continue until Aug. 30, with attendees asked to register with the Hubei province’s health authority.

Wuhan’s unique circumstances mean the pool party was low-risk, but not entirely risk-free as spreading due to visitors from outside the city is still a possibility. On the other hand, parties in locations that actively forbid large gatherings and have ongoing coronavirus cases are far more risky to hold and likely to cause spreading.

Reports of parties in Canada have caught widespread flak. B.C. health minister Adrian Dix asked residents to stop hosting private parties, as the province’s cases hit an all-time high on Monday. This comes on the heels of similar pleading by premier John Horgan and actor Ryan Reynolds. And before that, Vancouver parties in particular have been singled out by officials as the culprit behind 45 cases in early August.

Videos of packed patios and bars in Toronto have been a cause of ongoing concern, as Ontario’s case numbers are currently as high as they were in late July. Recently, a beach rave held by scores of anti-maskers made headlines after two chainsaw-wielding men covered in blood scared off attendees following a disagreement.

More than 10,000 people attended an illegal rave in France two weeks ago, far exceeding the country’s social gathering limits. France’s cases are currently on the rise, with a record 3,776 new cases in the last 24 hours; young people make up a majority of these numbers. Bloomberg reports that the spike has led authorities to roll out stricter mask usage rules.

A scene from the dance party in rural Causse Mejean, southern France on August 10, 2020.
A scene from the dance party in rural Causse Mejean, southern France on August 10, 2020.

The U.S. has fared terribly during the pandemic, with over five million and counting confirmed cases. In spite of this, parties have been widely attended and widely condemned widely online. In Alabama, students were criticized for hosting parties with the intention of spreading COVID-19.

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